Overcoming Fear: Accepting and Integrating Your Shadow Self

“What I know from this daily journey 
is that fear increases pain. 
What I don’t know but I suspect is that pain IS fear.” 

Shrieking and cowering on its hind legs, the Gollum-like cat bares and gnashes its fangs, hissing. Although free to roam in a beautiful garden, it is frozen in its tracks writhing in hunger and desperation, seemingly cornered and tormented by an imaginary abuser. It has the eyes of the violently abused, never at rest, trapped, humiliated, overcome with hatred and fear, gasping for breath, unable to see the docile world around her.

Yes, I think to myself. I recognize this animal. My Shadow; my Dark Side. My companion all these years.

I open my eyes from the exercise. I am reading “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford. “Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow” the book reads. “You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear.” Fear of what? Fear of being discovered for who you really are. And the shadow, as defined by Carl Jung, is the parts of our personality that we have rejected out of fear, ignorance, shame or lack of love.

So, this is the story of one woman’s journey to her authentic Self. An inner journey, as most are, through Fear. [ Wanna take this journey yourself? Take my 7 week video course: 7 Secrets for Creating the Life You REALLY Want]

Any Type A’s in The House?
Maybe you can relate. I was always in a hurry. Overbooked, overwhelmed, anxious, restless. And sleep was hardly a respite since the chasing continued there, always pursued in my dreams by some malevolent force. When a difficult (or overwhelmingly wonderful!) situation arose, my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest and all I wanted to do was run. More often than not, I could not say what I wanted to say or act how I wanted to act because I was too busy dealing with the overwhelm.

And so I set out 10 years ago on a path to intentionally meet my fear daily in meditation and yoga.

Recognizing Your Shadow
It was easy for me to recognize my Shadow on my meditation cushion. In the silence of this practice the workings of my mind are amplified and seen for what they are, a part of me, and not the result of some external circumstance. Initially, when pain arose, I could barely take it. My heart raced as I feared the pain would increase. Soon, a pain in my hips would spread to my entire body in pulsing, throbbing waves, causing my mind’s fear to increase even more. This fear caused my body to tense up more, creating more pain, in a downward descending cycle. I would end my meditation with my body quite literally twisted and contorted with tension. In compassion for myself I would take rests to clear the pain and fear from my body-mind and then start anew. If this sounds horrible, it wasn’t. Somehow a lightness and hope emerged from each new sitting. It felt cathartic, empowering.

What I know from this daily journey is that fear increases pain. What I don’t know but I suspect is that pain IS fear.

Moving Through Fear to Peace
Years later I was able to stay with the pain and fear for longer periods of time, first observing it with sorrowful resignation and later with curiosity. My physical pain would no longer spread to my whole body but stay limited to one location, even dissipate altogether. Now I can often muster up a “Bring it on!” attitude when faced with pain and I am simultaneously aware of light, pleasant sensations on other parts of my body and a general sense of wellness and connectedness, an awareness that everything will be okay. My heart feels more open, my body relaxed, my breath free-flowing.

In my external life, my heart no longer pounds in my chest during difficult situations and I am usually able to continue breathing and act with choice and honesty—instead of from a place of fear. I move and speak more slowly. I no longer dream of being chased. My ability to slow down has allowed me to connect with people at a deeper level, increasing the intimacy of my relationships. By overcoming fear I have been able to truly embrace my Shadow self. Yes, I love to have fun and not work all day. That may be counter-culture but it’s who I am. Yes, I’m sensitive, and that is a great strength. Yes, I’m nice but not too nice. I get angry. I have boundaries.

And my Shadow has changed too. The once vicious and desperate creature is now a noble tigress that walks, uneasily provoked, in a powerful state of peace. We are becoming one another. I have integrated her anger and power into myself. I am overcoming her fear. She has taken on my peace and self control.

Take a moment to visualize your Shadow. What does it look like, sound like? How does it move? Where in your life do you most often encounter your Shadow? What would it mean for you to face it, observe it, even welcome and befriend it?

And what is the reward for facing your fear and embracing your Shadow? In Debbie Ford’s words, “We live under the impression that in order for something to be divine it has to be perfect. We are mistaken. In fact, the exact opposite is true. To be divine is to be whole and to be whole is to be everything: the positive and the negative, the good and the bad, the holy man and the devil.” When we take the time to travel through our fear to integrate all parts of ourself, we will understand the Persian poet Rumi’s words, “By God, when you see your beauty, you’ll be the idol of yourself.”


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